Facebook (FB) provides a great way to stay connected with old and new friends (although the teens and tweens we know think Facebook is only for “old” people!). We also find current news events in our feeds. However, as was shared in last week’s article, not everything we read online or on social media sites can be taken at face value as true. Facebook offers a perfect example to understand why developing media literacy skills is so essential in our world today, so that we don’t take all that is shared on Facebook as verbatim truth.
When scrolling through your FB wall, practice critical thinking. If something sounds strange, ask questions. Where did this post come from? Did it originate with my friend or did they share it from somewhere else? Believe it or not, hoaxes are shared on Facebook just as much as other places online.
For example, recently there was a post that went viral saying that Facebook has changed the algorithm and now allows you to see posts from the same 25 or 26 friends. It was then explained you could trick the algorithm by simply typing one word in the comments. Doing this would “trick” the system so that you can see posts from all your friends.
Here is a sample of the message that went viral. I know I saw it in my Facebook feed. Maybe you saw it in yours:
“How to avoid hearing from the same 26 FB friends and nobody else:
Here is a post explaining why we don’t see all posts from our friends….
News feed recently shows only posts from the same few people, about 25, repeatedly the same, because Facebook has a new algorithm.
Their system chooses the people to read Your post. However, I would like to choose for myself, Therefore, I ask you a favor: if you read this message leave me a quick comment, a “hello”, a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my news feed.
Don’t just “Like”, Facebook requires a “Comment”. Even one word! Thanks!!!
Otherwise Facebook chooses who to show me and instead I don’t need Facebook to choose my friends!
Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts and bypass the system. That’s why we don’t see all posts from our friends!”
Although this message began a year ago, last month it took off and appeared everywhere. Perhaps it was because Facebook announced changes they made to emphasize “meaningful” posts for the user.
When you see this post, what do you do? Many people just followed what it said without question. They typed in their one word comment, taken in by what turned out to be a hoax. This is a perfect example of why being critical thinkers is important.
The first thing is to understand terms and how things work in whatever social media site you’re using.
As you read you may be asking yourself, “what exactly is an algorithm?” In short, they are codes developed to tell a program what to do. Will Oremus from Slate was able to sit with a team of engineers from Facebook to learn how their algorithms work. Though Facebook did not share the exact codes used, the basic understanding as Will explains is, “what is relevant to you—a post from your childhood friend or from a celebrity you follow—might be utterly irrelevant to me.” Click here for Oremus’s full article.
This hoax encouraged me to use my media literacy skills (critical thinking skill) and ask myself, ‘is there a way to select who appears on my news feed—especially when I have over 3,000 friends?’ I discovered Facebook does allow you to “prioritize” who you see first on your news feed.
Steps to change settings:
1. On your desktop click on the arrow in the upper right corner of your screen, or if your are on your mobile device select “settings” on the bottom of the options under the menu bottom on the bottom right corner of the Facebook app.
2. Select the News Feed Preferences. Select the first option, “Prioritize who to see first.” Then go through your friends and select all the ones you would like to see on your news feed. You also have the choice of choosing who would like to “unfollow” but not unfriend from your list.
You also have the option to go through your family, close friends, and acquaintances to switch between news feeds from only your close friends or to see only your acquaintances.
Steps to create categories of friends
- Click on the arrow on the upper right corner
- Select “News Feed Preferences”
- Click on “friends list” link under “explore” in the sidebar and you will see all the options to begin to build your lists
From Mobile Device
- Click on the menu bottom on the right corner
- Select “Feeds” option then “Explore”
Staying connected, whether via Facebook or any other social media site, brings us closer to people, especially to those we don’t always get to see face-to-face. The hoax that went around Facebook recently brings to mind yet again just how empowering media literacy can be. With the ability to ask questions of the posts that seem a bit off to you, you can be confident in your assessment on whether or not to engage a post, whether or not to share it, and how to discern whether what you read is actually true or just a hoax.
It isn’t too difficult to learn if something is a hoax. In most cases all you have to do is highlight part of the text in a browser, right click and select search to have a search engine look for any web references to the text. If it's a known hoax, you'll find something on Snopes.com or another rumor site to prove that it's false. Here’s the Snopes article that debunks the example we’ve been using.
A little bit of critical thinking can go a long way. It's easy and you'll feel better knowing that you're helping to deflate a hoax. It's also good media literacy.